Private Members Statement - The Government and Regional NSW
Private Members Statement delivered in the Parliament of NSW Legislative Assembly on 30 July 2020.
In May last year I drew the attention of the House to two headline items—quality of life in regional areas and regional decline. Those two broad headlines have driven my work and the work of my team for the past 16 months. I often speak about quality of life for people living in rural and regional New South Wales and about the need to make our communities good places to live. It is a partially subjective concept so I went hunting to find out what it might mean from a government perspective. I found the following quote:
"I want people living in regional NSW to have a great life. Moreover, I want people living outside of regional NSW to look to our regional towns and cities and think 'I could also have a great life there', because they know regional NSW is a great place to raise a family, start and grow a business, get a fulfilling job, participate in vibrant community activities, play sport at quality facilities, and access the quality health and education they deserve."
That is not a quote from me; it is a quote by the Deputy Premier, and Minister for Regional New South Wales, Industry and Trade from the New South Wales Government's A 20-Year Economic Vision for Regional NSW, released in July 2018.
It sounds a lot like what I have been saying.
I am not saying that I am an expert, but during my term as the member for Barwon I have spoken to a number of people who are experts in health, education, business, employment, regional development and local government, and many more who are well qualified in the school of life.
Together with my team, I am developing policies that make suggestions to Government that would turn the worm of regional development from trending downwards to trending up. One would think the regional New South Wales Minister would sit up and take notice when a member of Parliament representing the largest rural electorate in the State raises an idea in Parliament, in writing and in face-to-face meetings—especially when, for the first time in 70 years, that person took the seat from the party the Minister leads. Instead, the Deputy Premier dismisses those ideas.
I like John Barilaro and we have worked together in person to address issues in Barwon. Again, I offer to work with anyone in this Chamber or in the other place to progress issues in regional New South Wales. Let us not waste time and disappoint our constituents with murky partisan politics. Our constituents expect us all to be working for a better regional New South Wales.
I know who is sprinkling the glitter that is funding announcements because I find out about those announcements from the local paper.
Let us cut through all that. Like Keanu Reeves in the movie The Matrix, let us see through the veneer and look for the truth. Let us cut through the novelty cheques, the talk of job creation—there is very little in remote areas—and the talk about supporting agriculture.
One unarguable metric defines and underpins the success of the New South Wales Government. It transcends every other dataset, including announcements about how much record investment there has been in a given area.
That metric is population—bums on seats in regional New South Wales.
Look at the shifts in population. Look at towns where the population has been in decline because the things that can help make the town a good place to live—employment, services, amenity and public infrastructure—have been impacted by the New South Wales Government's policy. I am not looking for glitter from the New South Wales Government; I am looking for policies that assist to grow populations in rural and regional communities.
I will provide the Minister for Regional New South Wales, Industry and Trade with a few ideas today. I will keep providing them because they are sound ideas that will change the fortunes of regional New South Wales.
They are levers that the Government can pull. If it reckons it is pulling on them already, it needs to pull harder.
Those ideas are favourable taxation, digital connectivity, teleworking, drought recovery assistance, reinstatement of government services and employment, and better support for local government by stopping and reversing cost shifting by the State Government.
All of this is within reach and would provide the groundwork to make our towns better places to live.
If towns in regional New South Wales are good places to live, they maintain or grow their populations.
If towns are good places to live, kids stay in town when they finish school, there is reason to start a family and send kids to local schools for quality education opportunities, and government and private services are available locally and delivered by people who understand the community.
People invest in towns that are good places to live. They set up businesses and buy property. They are not only proud of their town but they are also excited about the future of their community.
My challenge to government is to dispense with its partisan politics, dispense with its dismissiveness and get on with working collaboratively to make rural and regional New South Wales a better place to live.
I add that I understand the Deputy Premier is not in the Chamber today due to a death in the family. I pass on my condolences to him.